WEPA Tunnels Parl. Inquiry submission

Water sparkling on the edge of Clive Park in Middle Harbour. Image: Meredith Foley

WEPA’s members have worked long and hard over the last few years to bring their concerns about the impact of the Beaches Link Tunnel on our bushland and neighbourhood to the notice of the NSW Government (including our local member, the Premier) through meetings, postings, petitions and letter/submission writing.

This week we lodged a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Public Works Committee Inquiry into the impact of the Western Harbour Tunnel (WHT) and Beaches Link Tunnel (BLT) Projects.  You can read our most recent submission here and see an attached paper on respirable dust by WEPA member Diane Staats here.

As the submission is fairly long, and at times technical, you might prefer the following executive summary:

The Beaches Link Tunnel Project proposes to clear up to 6 acres of bushland habitat at the top of the Flat Rock Gully catchment, with flow-on effects to the rest of Flat Rock Gully, Tunks Park, Middle Harbour, the Sailors Bay foreshores, and local and regional north-south and east-west wildlife corridors.  The impacts on the environment will be long-term and potentially irreversible.  There will also be long-term, negative impacts on the community living in and around these areas.

WEPA believes that the Environmental Impact Statement for the Beaches Link Tunnel (BLT) project (released last year) fails to properly assess risks, including in relation to biodiversity, contamination and local traffic, and that the Conditions of Approval (COA) are inadequate. The Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARS) have not been met in significant respects including in relation to the consideration of public transport alternatives and the assessment of contamination.

Costing for the projects is incomplete as it fails to take significant factors into account and pre-dates assessments of matters such as contamination which impact on it.  There is a real risk that proceeding with the BLT will stifle the development of public transport solutions on the Northern Beaches.  There has been a total lack of transparency in relation to costing with the failure to release the business case.

Community consultation has been rendered substantially meaningless by the failure to consider alternatives; the failure to provide comprehensible information in relation to costs and supposed benefits including the basis on which relevant conclusions have been reached; and the failure to provide comprehensive risk assessments.

For these reasons, our major recommendation in the submission is:

“That the Inquiry recommend that the NSW Government place a moratorium on the projects’ development process until it can establish the superiority of the projects via a transparent process, consideration of other options for transport, and the business case / cost-benefit analysis for the projects.  Such an analysis should take into account the environmental costs of the proposals including the need for more robust mitigation measures to ensure that it does not negatively impact the environment that our communities and local wildlife share and it should be exhibited for public comment.  We would particularly like to see a re-examination of the need for the project in light of changed work habits due to COVID-19, declining population growth rates, and the relative merits of public transport solutions in dealing with traffic congestion/transport issues on the North Shore and Northern Beaches. “

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first Green Bans on Kelly’s Bush.  We are hopeful that, as was the case then, our actions, small though they are, contribute to encouraging a rethink of this inappropriate and potentially damaging project.

Update 22 August 2021:  WEPA has also provided a supplement to our original inquiry submission.  The details can be viewed here.

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